Crystal Palace-Stoke City Preview
Mother Nature could put a damper on any form of free-flowing football at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday when Stoke City hope to have star playmaker Xherdan Shaqiri back to face Crystal Palace.
The traditional 3 o'clock kick-off time coincides with what figures to be a wet and dreary time in the West Midlands, with forecasts calling for heavy rain and very windy conditions.
"I know the weather will be a factor but it's just like any other game, and if we set our stall out the way we've been working on all week hopefully we can get the result," midfielder Jordon Mutch told Crystal Palace's official website.
Palace (8-2-6) will be confident about handling the elements after battling through windy conditions at Selhurst Park last Saturday for a 1-0 victory over Southampton. Yohan Cabaye struck for the winner.
The Eagles may get their first look at Shaqiri, who sat out last Saturday's scoreless draw with West Ham United with a hamstring strain. He had two assists the week before in a shock 2-0 win over Manchester City at the Britannia.
The attacking play of Shaqiri, Bojan Krkic and Marko Arnautovic have brought plaudits for an outfit previously known for plodding under former boss Tony Pulis, with Mark Hughes' side turning on the style.
"I think Stoke offer an offensive threat that I don't think Stoke's had for some time, I can think of some great Stoke teams," Palace boss Alan Pardew said. "This team going forward has a lot of flair and a lot of creativity so we really have to defend well but of course with our attack, particularly away from home, we are always a threat."
That threat wasn't quite up to snuff last weekend. Stoke were outshot 23-12 and only managed three shots on target, though Hughes felt the Potters had chances to snatch all three points.
"Marco van Ginkel and Marko Arnautovic both could have scored in the first half and Mame Diouf, who hasn't had a great deal of game time to be fair to him recently, could have won it for us with two opportunities in the second half," he told Stoke City's official website.
Former Chelsea man Van Ginkel made his first start since Sept. 19 in place of Shaqiri.
Stoke City have three wins, a draw and a loss in their last five.
"There is a sense of frustration because we feel we could have won the game, and maybe should have done, but it is another positive result for us on the back of another good performance," Hughes said.
The Eagles are hoping midfielder Mile Jedinak will be available after an ankle injury kept him out last weekend. He made his first start the week before in a 1-1 draw at Everton.
Joe Ledley may return from injury and make the matchday squad for Pardew, who got Wilfried Zaha back from suspension against the Saints.
Potters defender Geoff Cameron is out with a hamstring injury.
Palace took four points off Stoke last season, including a 2-1 win at the Britannia in March in which Zaha netted the match's final goal shortly before halftime.